[bay area] EaT. OuT . ShouT. [# one]
Last year I wrote far fewer restaurant reviews than in previous years. There were several reasons for this - one being that I wasn't working for a while and couldn't afford to eat out. The other excuse was that I set myself some higher standards for reviewing restaurants and, to be honest, as a regular punter rather than a professional critic those standards (visiting a restuarant 3x before writing about it) aren't easy to attain. This year, in addition to the full on reviews I hope to be able to pull out of the hat from time to time, I will also be publishing some swift and snappy round-ups of places I have been eating at, just to give you a taste and me a reminder for my records.
Remember the little coloured number at the start of a review shows whether it is a first, second or third+ visit. Little pink hearts are a bonus for places I really love.
Kokkari 200 Jackson Street (at Front), San Francisco, CA 94111
Driving around San Francisco looking for somewhere open to eat on the day after New Year, we stumbled upon Kokkari about which we have been hearing good things for years. The welcome is warm and cosy, the dining room is grand and the chairs so soft you melt into them. We elected to share several small plates. From our selection the Kolokithokeftethes, zucchini cakes, were knockout: crisp outside, moist inside, ample and with a delicious strained herbed yoghurt. The Kalamata Pita was also to our taste - especially the oily crust. Every thing else we tried was good, although the tomatoes found on many of the dishes suffer from not being their best at this time of year. In general the meal did not offer any complex combinations but when we reached dessert, the Galaktoboureko - traditional semolina custard in filo with warm quince spoon sweet & sage ice cream, the flavours were more interesting. The only dud of the evening were the over-vinegared Kokkari Patates which I wouldn't order again. Oh - and the waiter who dropped the check before I was even half way through my dessert.
Coco500: 500 Brannan St (@ Fourth) San Francisco, CA 94107
I haven't been shy on this blog about my love for Coco500, so don't be surprised to hear that I went to their Festa dell’Olio Nuovo last week where we ate a set menu. Three of the courses shone for me - the puntarella and calamari fritto with meyer lemon aioli were light as a feather with a perfect balance of flavours. The braised pork shoulder, olives, basil, pine nuts did the best job of showcasing the olive oil. The meat was tender and soft. Perfect. I also loved the dessert - the lightest sponge - a new oil cake, olive oil gelato, vin santo tangerines. Great job.
The Blue Plate: 3218 Mission St. @ Valencia San Francisco, Ca. 94110
It's been way, way too long since I visited The Blue Plate. I have just been reminded that the quality and value of their food and the warmth of their service suggests it should be a far more regular spot. Last night they made good a too long wait for our reserved table by bringing all four of us a glass of complimentary prosecco. That's a gazillion brownie points for starters. I decided on a couple of appetizers instead of a main course and both of them were so delicious I could cry because I won't be returning to eat them again tonight. When I'd finished there was not one speck or crumb of food left on either of my two plates. Escarole cornmeal fried oysters, smoked bacon, chopped egg and lemon-garlic vinaigrette displayed perfect contrasts, crisp, juicy, cold, hot, creamy, smoky. I loved, loved, loved this dish and, no, I didn't share. No one else thought that trying oxtail sounded like a good idea, all fool them, so I enjoyed a couple of stunning oxtail and mushroom bruschetta with pine nuts and preserved lemon all too myself. Fatty, succulent, and strongly flavoured, I loved the way the subtle infused lemon flavour was set off by a topping of fresh mint leaves with the added toastiness of the pine nuts. Perhaps still sorry about our initial wait for a table, the generous chef sent us a free dessert too, a fat apple cake, with cheese frosting, puddles of caramelised sauce and praline which was polished off with great speed, despite the protests that would have suggested we were all completely full before it arrived. Get your arse to The Blue Plate, you won't be disappointed, (if you can actually get a table). [Note we Like: The Blue Plate uses products from organic and responsible farms whenever possible.]